I'm actually relatively happy that it's taken five New England Revolution games for me to bring back this column. Sure I could have done smaller posts on Jose Goncalves' red card against New York City FC or even Scott Caldwell's foul that led to a San Jose Earthquakes penalty, which I'll get to briefly later in this post.
But, arguably the the most infamous Revolution game in recent memory, as far as refereeing decisions go, came on October 5, 2013 against the New York Red Bulls. Not surprisingly, Fotis Bazakos was in the middle for that game as well, and the final minutes of the game dissolved into chaos leading to a Tim Cahill equalizer in a 2-2 draw.
That game gave birth to "#WTFotis" as fans will long remember Thierry Henry's two-handed push of Andrew Farrell into Matt Reis' knee that led to Farrell being sent to the sidelines to receive treatment for blood right before the final corner kick of the game.
A common misconception of that game is that Bazakos was suspended as he didn't appear in another game in MLS until 2014, but he actually suffered a torn meniscus and required surgery and rehab in the league's off-seasons. And Bazakos is back with another awful sequence from last week's game against the Colorado Rapids.
But, first things first, we have to get to the late stages of the second half. And I already started this game in a bad mood.
WHOSE IDEA WAS IT TO PLAY BURGUNDY VERSUS RED?!?!?!?
The picture above doesn't do this problem justice, but the first half shadows made identifying anyone on the field next to impossible. Soccer jersey's are supposed to clearly identify both sides, but when your base color for both jerseys are a darker/lighter shade of the same color, it kind of defeats the purpose. Colorado has a yellow away kit that doesn't clash with either of the Revs two jerseys (Navy Home or Red Away) that would have solved this problem. I get that navy and burgundy also clash with both teams wearing white shorts so the emphasis should have been put on the Rapids to wear their away/alternate kit. Do I think the all-red Revs kits were a better choice than the navy to be opposite the burgundy? Yes, but that's mostly because the Revs would have red shorts to Colorado's whites but it didn't do that much to alleviate this problem. Memo to everyone, soccer is not a fashion contest, you can wear your away kits at home.
That should not happen again, or so help the next team that screws this up. On to better topics.
Charlie Davies had himself an interesting afternoon, getting booked for a deliberate yellow card in the first half and then drawing a penalty in the second. As far as the yellow card goes, it's accurate. Davies brings down a ball inside the box with his arm and the AR is in full view of it and flags him. Whether or not Davies is trying to chest down the ball and is using his arm as balance or something doesn't mean that much. It's an awkward soccer play so it's likely that he was trying to use that arm to bring down the ball to shoot on target. And basically every time you play the ball with an arm at or above shoulder height, it's going to be considered "deliberate" and you're going to get a caution.
The penalty on the other hand:
Look, everyone in New England, and pretty much everywhere else, is aware of Davies' prior history of embellishment in the box. And while that reputation is deserved to a point, it's also cost him on more than one occasion when he's actually been fouled.
In this case, Bazakos doesn't have much of a choice. Jared Watts has partially turned Davies inside the area in full view of Bazakos trailing the play at the top of the box. Is it a "soft" penalty? Yes, but I've never liked that expression for a variety of reasons. Does Davies embellish the contact by going to ground, yes, but unlike a sliding challenge where the attack jumps over it and then sprawls out, Davies just sells what's really soft defense by Watts.
There's no reason for Watts to put his hands on Davies in that spot and turn him, that's always going to be a foul and it's really obvious when you do that as a defender. Instead, what everyone should be complaining about is not Davies going to ground, but Watts committing a silly foul. Embellished or not, I don't know what Watts is trying to do there. Just like I disliked Scott Caldwell diving in on Clarence Goodson against San Jose, the decision to initiate contact is unnecessary and it gets both players into trouble.
Why do we call these types of penalties "soft"? Because the amount of contact is minimal, but it doesn't matter how much contact there is, it's still a foul. Both players made a challenge that basically had zero chance of getting the ball while inside their own penalty area and naturally, both gave away justified penalties.
But the crowning achievement of this game came around the 58th minute.
If you have an MLS Live account and can go back and re-watch the clip in full, I'd do that. But the play-by-play is as follows: Dominique Badji enters the game as a substitute and the Rapids attack down the right flank, eventually centering the ball. Andrew Farrell attempts to clear the ball, and it appears to deflect off Badji and into his outstretched arm, which then settles so he can shoot a ball off the post.
Revs defender Darrius Barnes ends up fouling Rapids midfielder Juan Ramirez as the ricochet comes back into the box. Bazakos points to the spot just as Gabriel Torres, coming back to the ball from an offside position, touches the ball, and the AR's flag goes up and Bazakos honors the offside flag and seemingly rescinds the penalty. Pablo Mastroeni ends up getting dismissed for protesting in the aftermath as well as Dillon Powers getting booked for dissent.
Credit to the Rapids booth, including Marcelo Balboa, for correctly identifying the issue in the subsequent replays, because clearly the Barnes foul comes just before the offside infraction. In fact, without the Barnes foul, Torres likely never plays the ball in the first place. Now, the fact that the Badji handball was missed is a separate issue, but since it was missed the fact that Bazakos and his AR don't have a direct conversation together, then end up getting all phases of this play wrong. It's one thing to talk over the headsets, but in this case I'd want to talk directly with my fellow official to figure out what happened.
In the span of less than 10 seconds, this refereeing crew misses a handball and incorrectly overrules a legitimate penalty for an offside call. Mastroeni and the Rapids should absolutely feel robbed in this situation, and the announcers portray this as well while repeatedly acknowledging the missed handball. But just because the Revs ended up with their correct free kick, the way it plays out is beyond poor.
As far as I'm concerned, this is a breakdown in communication. The Badji handball aside, missed calls happen and we have to live with them. But in this case, both Bazakos and his AR make correct calls, Bazakos has pointed to the spot and his AR is putting his flag up for Torres coming from an offside position to play the ball. Separately, both calls are correct but it's the foul and penalty kick that needs to take precedence here. A face-to-face conversation between Bazakos and his AR should have solved this situation.
The worst part of this whole play, is that both calls get correctly identified, the hardest part of the entire job, making the call. Both Bazakos and his AR on the near sideline both made correct calls, but this is a rare case where the order of the calls gets confused and that can't happen in the professional level.
And no, it's not a make up call for the Revs for missing the Badji handball, I doubt that Bazakos was in a position to see the ball hit the arm as he's likely screened by Badji himself and the AR is looking across the field for offside calls. That stuff happens, but yes, that is a handball that Badji commits and it should've been a foul at the top of the box and free kick for New England.
Not an indirect free kick for an offside call that technically shouldn't have happened.